There’s never been a better time to be a car-loving futurist. Take the concept SIV (smart intuitive vehicle) debuted by Chinese automaker Byton at this month’s CES Las Vegas. Even if the electric SUV never makes it to a road near you, it’s packed with technologies that most certainly will — such as digital touchscreens that take up the whole dashboard and the ability to control much of the car via hand gestures and voice commands powered by Amazon’s Alexa software. The vehicle also boasts “conditional automation,” meaning it will drive itself under the right conditions.
The SIV is so smart, brags Byton, that it removes the need to use cell phones while driving. It’s a goal shared by other carmakers, including Toyota, which outfitted the 2018 Camry with a new open-source entertainment platform that integrates music streaming and other voice-operated functionalities. (But don’t leave your phone at home just yet: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto still allow you to control your cell via touchscreen and voice command while keeping your actual phone safely stowed in your pocket.)
Like CES, this month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit will have a healthy focus on electric vehicles and hands-free tech. Honda, for one, will preview its third-generation Insight at the event. Set to hit the market later this year, the sedan has a two-motor hybrid system and all the standard connectivity bells and whistles. The car is part of Honda’s plan for electric vehicles to make up two-thirds of its sales by 2030.
Five other state-of-the-art features to look for in your next big auto purchase:
- Windshields with built-in digital displays that aim to keep your eyes on the road
- LED and xenon headlights that never need replacing
- Spa-like features, such as ambient lighting and automated fragrance dispensers (both found in Mercedes’ 2018 S-Class sedan)
- Selective self-driving modes (for example, the Volvo XC60’s ability to take over for the driver to safely avoid collisions)
- Cruise control that automatically adjusts speeds in order to keep a safe distance between vehicles (Cadillac’s 2018 CT6 Sedan boasts this option)
But perhaps the most mind-boggling innovation on the horizon comes from Nissan, whose “brain to vehicle” system might someday improve your car’s autonomous capabilities by reading your brain waves and anticipating your next move behind the wheel. It sounds crazy, but so did self-driving cars not long ago.
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